Here’s What Happens When Two Designers Speak Only in Infographics
Every Sunday for 52 weeks straight, Giorgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec walked to their respective mailboxes and dropped a postcard in the mail. The postcards always came from the same place—Lupi’s from Brooklyn, Posavec’s from London—and though they outlined, in fine detail, the mundanities of their daily lives, the mailings involved very little actual writing.
In one early correspondence, Lupi sent a card with an illustrated music staff whose notes represented every time she complained. In response, Posavec mailed a burst of colorful lines that communicated the same thing. In another, each sent a map of their respective cities —Lupi opting for an angular grid, while Posavec described hers with colorful circles. “We didn’t speak English or Italian (Lupi’s native tongue),” Lupi says. “We spoke data.”
It was a peculiar form of correspondence, but it makes sense. Lupi and Posavec are information designers, and their preferred media are facts and figures. “I see data as another material, like paint or paper or clay or marble,” says Posavec. “Whatever people use to communicate a message.” When they met at a design conference in 2014, the pair wondered if they could get to know one another through their data alone. They started sending each other postcards illustrated with interpretations of data they had gathered over the week—how many complaints they made, what animals they saw, which sounds they heard, for instance—and called the project Dear Data.
Now they’ve compiled the postcards into a book of the same name. It’s an intimate look at the lives of two designers as told through their personal data.
The book itself is charming, filled with hand drawn postcards and full-page spreads with insights about how it feels to keep a microscope on your life for an entire year. (The takeaway: it can get pretty uncomfortable.) Every postcard is printed in the book as it was sent in the mail, and comes with a detailed legend, explaining how exactly it’s meant to be read.
Throughout the year the designers documented—then illustrated—all forms of data: their jealousies, the doors they walked through, the positive thoughts that passed through their minds. Despite the vast amount of quantification, Dear Data feels almost like an anti-quantified self project. Lupi and Posavec aren’t interested in calories, steps, or heart rate. Their project explores the more slippery details of daily life. This human-centric data is the reason why Dear Data doesn’t read as detached self-analysis. There are insights to be found, even in the categories they chose. “Counting something means it matters,” Lupi says.
After a year, Lupi and Posavec now view Dear Data as a (very public) journal. To them, data is a tool to help make sense of their lives, to an extent that might not otherwise be possible. “Data is a way to filter reality in a way that words cannot,” Lupi says. Lupi doesn’t mean the data she and Posavec collected is objective—far from it. What she means is taking stock of quotidian habits, the ones we often ignore, can sometimes lead to beautiful insights.